Foster's Reviews > Desert Solitaire

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
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Sep 24, 10

bookshelves: exploration, nature, philosophy-and-religion
Read from September 15 to 24, 2010

This one grew on me. At first I found Abbey to be arrogant and overtly reactionary (his digressions about murdering government officials and neutering the human population took a bit of getting used to). However, later on in the book his prose belied his true calling as a naturalist and philosopher, and these were the portions I enjoyed the most - specifically the chapter "Episodes and Visions." Some of his keeper quotes (for me) included:
"Why call [unnamed mountains] anything at all? ...why not let them alone?...vanity, vanity, nothing but vanity: the itch for naming things is almost as bad as the itch for possessing things."
"Whether we live or die is of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the desert. Let men in their madness blast every city on earth into black rubble and envelop the entire planet in a cloud of lethal gas-the canyons and hills, the springs and rocks will still be here, the sunlight will filter through, water will form and warmth will be upon the land and after sufficient time, no matter how long, somewhere, living things will emerge and join and stand once again, this time perhaps to take a different and better course."

Given that Abbey wrote this in 1968, it is striking how much some things have remained the same (the age-old conundrum of wilderness vs. "access"), and how much has changed. Abbey would be heartened to know that in many of the more remote National Parks, one can only access them by a bus on a dirt road. Not yet has his dire prediction of National Parks becoming parking lots been realized (but we must remain vigilant).

I'm looking forward to reading more of his stuff. Hopefully in the next edition the publisher will replace the jacket photo of Monument Valley (not mentioned in the book) with a picture of Tukuhnikivats (a major totem throughout the story).
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